The new WHO classification of ovarian, fallopian tube, and primary peritoneal cancer and its clinical implications

Arch Gynecol Obstet. 2016 Apr;293(4):695-700. doi: 10.1007/s00404-016-4035-8. Epub 2016 Feb 19.


Introduction: Molecular pathological research has contributed to improving the knowledge of different subtypes of ovarian cancer. In parallel with the implementation of the new FIGO staging classification, the WHO classification was revised. The latter is mainly based on the histopathological findings and defines the actual type of tumor. It has, therefore, also an important impact on prognosis and therapy of the patient.

Materials and methods: The new WHO Classification of Ovarian Cancer published 2014 by Robert Kurman and co-authors is summarized. The major changes compared to the hitherto existing classification are presented.

Results: The new classification eliminates the previous focus of mesothelial origin of ovarian cancer. Instead, it features a discussion of tubal carcinogenesis of hereditary and some other high-grade serous carcinomas. The previously assumed pathogenesis pathway may be correct for some, but not for all, serous cancers. The new classification was established to classify ovarian cancer in a more consistent way. The earlier transitional cell type of ovarian cancer has been removed while seromucinous tumors have been added as a new entity. The role of some borderline tumors as one possible step in the progression from benign to invasive lesions is incorporated. The article summarizes the essential updates concerning serous, mucinous, seromucinous, endometrioid, clear-cell, and Brenner tumors.

Conclusion: The new WHO classification takes into account the recent findings on the origin, pathogenesis, and prognosis of different ovarian cancer subtypes. The tubal origin of hereditary and some non-hereditary high-grade serous cancers is mentioned in contrast to the hitherto theory of mesothelial origin of tumors. Seromucinous tumors represent a new entity.

Keywords: Clear cell; Endometrioid; High-grade serous; Low-grade serous; Mucinous.

MeSH terms

  • Adenocarcinoma, Clear Cell / classification*
  • Adenocarcinoma, Clear Cell / pathology
  • Adenocarcinoma, Mucinous / classification*
  • Adenocarcinoma, Mucinous / pathology
  • Adult
  • Animals
  • Brenner Tumor / pathology
  • Carcinogenesis
  • Cystadenocarcinoma, Serous / classification*
  • Cystadenocarcinoma, Serous / pathology
  • Endometrium / pathology
  • Epithelial Cells / metabolism
  • Fallopian Tube Neoplasms / classification*
  • Fallopian Tube Neoplasms / pathology
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Neoplasm Staging / methods*
  • Ovarian Neoplasms / classification*
  • Ovarian Neoplasms / pathology
  • Peritoneal Neoplasms / classification*
  • Peritoneal Neoplasms / pathology
  • Peritoneal Neoplasms / surgery
  • Precancerous Conditions / pathology
  • Prognosis
  • Retroperitoneal Neoplasms / pathology
  • Sarcoma / pathology
  • World Health Organization